CBC’s digital Documentary channel in growth mode

This fall the CBC's specialty digital channel Documentary will be rolling out into new areas across Canada. As its audience grows, Bruce Cowley, creative head of digital channels at the CBC, says he'll be looking for more docs with universal ideas to resonate with viewers.
May 3, 2010

The CBC digital channel Documentary is looking to grow its audience, and part of that strategy includes rolling out into new parts of Canada this fall when the channel’s major distributors, including TV service providers Bell and Rogers, open the channel up across the country.

It is also for this reason that Documentary is planning a special raft of doc programming for the fall to coincide with its expected boost in viewership. ‘It’s an opportunity to put our best stuff on the air,’ says the CBC’s head of digital channels, Bruce Cowley.

The channel, which must air 75% Canadian content as part of its CRTC license and which consists of roughly 90% acquisitions, will debut a number of docs which have not yet had a television broadcast, many of which are original productions for the channel.

Included in the fall line-up is Scared of My Shadow, a doc produced by Vancouver-based prodco The Eyes about the North American tendency to overprotect children, which questions if this leaves today’s kids ill-prepared for adulthood. Where’s My Goat? is the story of a filmmaker, Christopher Richardson, who subscribed to a service that gave goats to needy families in Africa whenever he closed a deal with a commercial client. The film follows Richardson as he goes to Tanzania to track down the goats he gave to see if they really made it to their families.

The projected growth Documentary’s audience is also the reason that Cowley looks for what he calls ‘universal touch points’ in films to air on the channel, to ensure they resonate with a wide audience of doc lovers. Generally speaking, he says he’s primarily interested in ‘socially-based documentaries that have a human dimension to them.’

Fittingly, this week is Hot Docs Week on Documentary. On a nightly basis the channel will air feature docs that have previously screened at film festivals, including Hot Docs. Festival docs are no strangers to the specialty channel, which regularly airs feature length docs with an independent edge.

‘There’s definitely an independent eye and independent perspective to the documentaries we air,’ says Cowley. ‘If people want to pitch to Documentary, it’s definitely an [outlet] that supports independently-minded filmmakers.’

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.